Order Code RL33542
Broadband Internet Regulation and Access: Background and Issues
Updated May 27, 2008
Angele A. GilroySpecialist in Telecommunications
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Lennard G. KrugerSpecialist in Science and Technology
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Broadband Internet Regulation and Access: Background and Issues
Broadband or high-speed Internet access is provided by a series of technologiesthat give users the ability to send and receive data at volumes and speeds far greaterthan current Internet access over traditional telephone lines. In addition to offeringspeed, broadband access provides a continuous, “always on” connection and theability to both receive (download) and transmit (upload) data at high speeds.Broadband access, along with the content and services it might enable, has thepotential to transform the Internet: both what it offers and how it is used. It ispossible that many of the future applications that will best exploit the technologicalcapabilities of broadband have yet to be developed. There are multiple transmissionmedia or technologies that can be used to provide broadband access. These includecable; an enhanced telephone service called digital subscriber line (DSL); fiber-to-the-home (FTTH); satellite, mobile, and fixed wireless (including “wi-fi” and “Wi-Max”); broadband over powerlines (BPL); and others.
From a public policy perspective, the goals are to ensure that broadbanddeployment is timely and contributes to the nation’s economic growth, that industrycompetes fairly, and that affordable and high-quality service is provided to all sectorsand geographical locations of American society. The federal government — throughCongress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — is seeking toensure fair competition among the players so that broadband will be available andaffordable in a timely manner to all Americans who want it.
Some areas of the nation — particularly rural and low-income communities —continue to lack full access to high-speed broadband Internet service. In order toaddress this problem, the 110th Congress is examining a wide range of issuesincluding the scope and effect of federal broadband financial assistance programs(including universal service and the broadband programs at the U.S. Department ofAgriculture’s Rural Utilities Service), and the impact of telecommunicationsregulation and new technologies on broadband deployment. To date, legislativemeasures to address the reform and expansion of scope of the universal service fund(S. 101, S. 609, S. 711, H.R. 42, H.R. 278, H.R. 2054), net neutrality (S. 215. H.R.5353, H.R. 5994), and broadband financial assistance and data collection (H.R. 1818,H.R. 2035, H.R. 2174, H.R. 2272, H.R. 2419, H.R. 2569, H.R. 2764, H.R. 2953,H.R. 3246, H.R. 3281, H.R. 3428, H.R. 3627, H.R. 3893, H.R. 3919, H.R. 5682, S.541, S. 761, S. 1032, S. 1190, S. 1264, S. 1439, S. 1492, S. 2242) have beenintroduced. One facet of the debate over broadband services focuses on whetherpresent laws and subsequent regulatory policies are needed to ensure thedevelopment of competition and its subsequent consumer benefits, or conversely,whether such laws and regulations are overly burdensome and discourage investmentin and deployment of broadband services.
This report which will be updated as events warrant.
What Is Broadband and Why Is It Important? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Broadband Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2Cable . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2Wireless . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3Fiber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3Satellite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Status of Broadband Deployment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Access to Broadband and the “Digital Divide” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5FCC Activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6Administration Activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8Enacted Legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Regulation and Broadband: Convergence and the Changing Marketplace . . . . . . 9
Activities in the 109th Congress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Activities in the 110th Congress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Broadband Internet Regulation and Access: Background and Issues
What Is Broadband and Why Is It Important?
Broadband or high-speed Internet access is provided by a series of technologiesthat give users the ability to send and receive data at volumes and speeds far greaterthan current Internet access over traditional telephone lines. Currently, a number oftelecommunications companies are developing, installing, and marketing specifictechnologies and services to provide broadband access to the home. Meanwhile, thefederal government — through Congress and the Federal CommunicationsCommission (FCC) — is seeking to ensure fair competition among the players sothat broadband will be available and affordable in a timely manner to all Americanswho want it.
Traditionally, Internet users have accessed the Internet through the sametelephone line that can be used for traditional voice communication. A personalcomputer equipped with a modem is used to hook into an Internet dial-up connectionprovided (for a fee) by an Internet service provider (ISP) of choice. The modemconverts analog signals (voice) into digital signals that enable the transmission of“bits” of data.
The faster the data transmission rate, the easier one can download files, hopfrom Web page to Web page, or view video. The highest speed modem used with atraditional telephone line, known as a 56K modem, offers a maximum datatransmission rate of about 45,000 bits per second (bps). However, as the content onthe World Wide Web becomes more sophisticated, the limitations of relatively lowdata transmission rates (called “narrowband”) such as 56K become apparent. Forexample, using a 56K modem connection to download a 10-minute video or a largesoftware file can be a lengthy and frustrating exercise. By using a broadband high-speed Internet connection, with data transmission rates many times faster than a 56Kmodem, users can view video, make telephone calls, or download software and otherdata-rich files in a matter of seconds. In addition to offering speed, broadband accessprovides a continuous “always on” connection (no need to “dial-up”) and a “two-way” capability — that is, the ability to both receive (download) and transmit(upload) data at high speeds.
Broadband access, along with the content and services it might enable, has thepotential to transform the Internet — both what it offers and how it is used. Forexample, a two-way high speed connection could be used for interactive applicationssuch as online classrooms, showrooms, or health clinics, where teacher and student(or customer and salesperson, doctor and patient) can see and hear each other through
their computers. An “always on” connection could be used to monitor home security,home automation, or even patient health remotely through the Web. The high speedand high volume that broadband offers could also be used for bundled service where,for example, cable television, video on demand, voice, data, and other services areall offered over a single line. In truth, it is possible that many of the applications thatwill best exploit the technological capabilities of broadband, while also capturing theimagination of consumers, have yet to be developed.
There are multiple transmission media or technologies that can be used toprovide broadband access. These include cable modem, an enhanced telephoneservice called digital subscriber line (DSL), satellite technology, fiber, mobile orfixed wireless technologies, and others. Cable and DSL are currently the most widelyused technologies for providing broadband access. Both require the modification ofan existing physical infrastructure that is already connected to the home (i.e., cabletelevision and telephone lines). Each technology has its respective advantages anddisadvantages, and competes with each other based on performance, price, quality ofservice, geography, user friendliness, and other factors. The following sectionssummarize cable, DSL, and other broadband technologies.
The same cable network that currently provides television service to consumersis being modified to provide broadband access. Because cable networks are sharedby users, access speeds can decrease during peak usage hours, when bandwidth isbeing shared by many customers at the same time. Network sharing has also led tosecurity concerns and fears that hackers might be able to eavesdrop on a neighbor’sInternet connection. The cable industry is developing “next generation” technologywhich will significantly extend downloading and uploading speeds.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
DSL is a modem technology that converts existing copper telephone lines intotwo-way high speed data conduits. Speeds can depend on the condition of thetelephone wire and the distance between the home and the telephone company’scentral office (i.e., the building that houses telephone switching equipment). BecauseDSL uses frequencies much higher than those used for voice communication, bothvoice and data can be sent over the same telephone line. Thus, customers can talkon their telephone while they are online, and voice service will continue even if theDSL service goes down. Like cable broadband technology, a DSL line is “alwayson” with no dial-up required. Unlike cable, however, DSL has the advantage ofbeing unshared between the customer and the central office. Thus, data transmissionspeeds will not necessarily decrease during periods of heavy local Internet use. Adisadvantage relative to cable is that DSL deployment is constrained by the distancebetween the subscriber and the central office. DSL technology over a copper wireonly works within 18,000 feet (about three miles) of a central office facility.However, DSL providers are deploying technology to further increase deployment
1 For further information, see CRS Report RS20993, Wireless Technology and SpectrumDemand: Advanced Wireless Services, by Linda K. Moore. 2 For further information, see CRS Report RL32421, Broadband Over Power Lines:Regulatory and Policy Issues, by Patricia Moloney Figliola.
range. One option is to install “remote terminals” which can serve areas farther thanthree miles from the central office.
Mobile or fixed wireless systems transmit data over the airwaves from towersor antennas to a receiver. Mobile wireless broadband services (also referred to asthird generation or “3G”) allow consumers to get broadband access over cell phones,PDAs, or wireless modem cards connected to a laptop.1 The FCC has auctionedfrequencies currently occupied by broadcast channels 52-69. These and otherfrequencies in the 700 MHZ band are possible candidates for wireless broadbandapplications. A number of wireless technologies, corresponding to different parts ofthe electromagnetic spectrum, also have potential. These include the upperbands(above 24GHz), the lowerbands (multipoint distribution service or MDS, below 3GHz), broadband personal communications services (PCS), wireless communicationsservice (2.3 GHz), and unlicenced spectrum. Unlicensed spectrum is beingincreasingly used to provide high-speed short-distance wireless access (popularlycalled “wi-fi”) to local area networks, particularly in urban areas where wiredbroadband connections already exist. A new and developing wireless broadbandtechnology (called “WiMax”) has the capability to transmit signals over much largerareas.
Another broadband technology is optical fiber to the home (FTTH). Opticalfiber cable, already used by businesses as high speed links for long distance voice anddata traffic, has tremendous data capacity, with transmission speeds dramaticallyhigher than what is offered by cable modem or DSL broadband technology. Whilethe high cost of installing optical fiber in or near users’ homes has been a majorbarrier to the deployment of FTTH, both Verizon and AT&T (formerly SBC) arerolling out fiber-based architectures that will offer consumers voice, video, and high-speed data (sometimes referred to as a “triple play”). Some public utilities are alsoexploring or beginning to offer broadband access via fiber inside their existingconduits. Additionally, some companies are investigating the feasibility oftransmitting data over power lines, which are already ubiquitous in people’s homes.2
Satellite broadband Internet service is currently being offered by three providers:Hughes Network Systems (DirecWay), Starband (Spacenet Inc.) and WildBlue. Likecable, satellite is a shared medium, meaning that privacy may be compromised andperformance speeds may vary depending upon the volume of simultaneous use.Another disadvantage of Internet -over-satellite is its susceptibility to disruption in
3 FCC, High-Speed Services for Internet Access: Status as of June 30, 2007, March 2008.Available at [http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-280906A1.pdf]4 Percentage assumes one high speed line per household, 65.9 million residential high speedlines (per June 30, 2007 FCC data) and 114 million households in the U.S. (2006 Censusdata, see [http://www.census.gov/prod/2007pubs/08abstract/pop.pdf] ).5 Federal Communications Commission, Fourth Report to Congress, “Availability ofAdvanced Telecommunications Capability in the United States,” GN Docket No. 04-54,FCC 04-208, September 9, 2004, p. 38. Available at [http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-208A1.pdf]6 International Telecommunications Union, Economies by broadband penetration, 2007.Available at [http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/at_glance/top20_broad_2007.html].7 OECD, OECD Broadband Statistics, December 2007. Available at[http://www.oecd.org/sti/ict/broadband].8 OECD, Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry, The Development of BroadbandAccess in OECD Countries, October 29, 2001, 63 pages. For a comparison of governmentbroadband policies, also see OECD, Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry,
bad weather. On the other hand, the big advantage of satellite is its universalavailability. Whereas cable or DSL is not available to some parts of the UnitedStates, satellite connections can be accessed by anyone with a satellite dish facing thesouthern sky. This makes satellite Internet access a possible solution for rural orremote areas not served by other technologies.
Status of Broadband Deployment
According to the latest FCC data on the deployment of high-speed Internetconnections (released March 2008), as of June 30, 2007, there were 100.9 millionhigh speed lines connecting homes and businesses to the Internet in the United States,a growth rate of 22% during the first half of 2007. Of the 100.9 million high speedlines reported by the FCC, 65.9 million serve residential users.3 While the broadbandadoption rate stands at roughly 58% of U.S. households,4 broadband availability ismuch higher. As of June 30, 2007, the FCC found at least one high-speed subscriberin 99% of all zip codes in the United States. The FCC estimates that “roughly 20percent of consumers with access to advanced telecommunications capability dosubscribe to such services.” According to the FCC, possible reasons for the gapbetween broadband availability and subscribership include the lack of computers insome homes, price of broadband service, lack of content, and the availability ofbroadband at work.5
According to the International Telecommunications Union, the U.S. ranks 24th
worldwide in broadband penetration (subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2007).6
Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)found the U.S. ranking 15th among OECD nations in broadband access per 100inhabitants as of December 2007.7 By contrast, in 2001 an OECD study found theU.S. ranking 4th in broadband subscribership per 100 inhabitants (after Korea,Sweden, and Canada).8 While many argue that the U.S. declining performance in
8 (...continued)Broadband Infrastructure Deployment: The Role of Government Assistance, May 22, 2002,42 p. 9 See Turner, Derek S., Free Press, Broadband Reality Check II: The Truth BehindAmerica’s Digital Divide, August 2006, pp 8-11. Available at [http://www.freepress.net/files/bbrc2-final.pdf]; and Turner, Derek S., Free Press, ‘Shooting the Messenger’ Myth vs.Reality: U.S. Broadband Policy and International Broadband Rankings, July 2007, 25 p.,available at [http://www.freepress.net/files/shooting_the_messenger.pdf].10 National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Fact Sheet: United StatesMaintains Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Leadership and EconomicStrength, available at [http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/press/2007/ICTleader_042407.html].11 See Wallsten, Scott, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Towards Effective U.S.Broadband Policies, May 2007, 19 pages. Available at [http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop14.7usbroadbandpolicy.pdf]. Also see Ford, George, Phoenix Center, TheBroadband Performance Index: A Policy-Relevant Method of Comparing BroadbandAdoption Among Countries, Phoenix Center Policy Paper Number 29, July 2007, 32 pp.Available at [http://www.phoenix-center.org/pcpp/PCPP29Final.pdf].12 See price and services and speed data on OECD Broadband Portal, available at[http://www.oecd.org/sti/ict/broadband]; Turner, Derek S., Free Press, Broadband RealityCheck II: The Truth Behind America’s Digital Divide, August 2006, pp 5-9; Kende,Michael, Analysis Consulting Limited, Survey of International Broadband Offerings,October 4, 2006, 12 pages, available at [http://www.analysys.com/pdfs/BroadbandPerformanceSurvey.pdf]; and Correa, Daniel K., The International Technologyand Innovation Foundation, Assessing Broadband in America: OECD and ITIF BroadbandRankings, April 2007, 10 pages, available at [http://www.itif.org/files/BroadbandRankings.pdf].13 For more information on broadband and the digital divide, see CRS Report RL30719,Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs, byLennard G. Kruger and Angele A. Gilroy.
international broadband rankings is a cause for concern,9 others — including theAdministration — maintain that the OECD and ITU data undercount U.S. broadbanddeployment,10 and that cross-country broadband deployment comparisons are notnecessarily meaningful and inherently problematic.11 Finally, an issue related tointernational broadband rankings is the extent to which broadband speeds and pricesdiffer between the U.S. and the rest of the world.12
Access to Broadband and the “Digital Divide”13
While the number of new broadband subscribers continues to grow, the rate ofbroadband deployment in urban and high income areas appears to be outpacingdeployment in rural and low-income areas. According to the latest FCC data on thedeployment of high-speed Internet connections (released March 2008), high-speedsubscribers were reported in 99% of the most densely populated zip codes, asopposed to 91% of zip codes with the lowest population densities. Similarly, for zipcodes ranked by median family income, high-speed subscribers were reported present
14 FCC, High-Speed Services for Internet Access: Status as of June 30, 2007, p.4.15 Horrigan, John B., Pew Internet & American Life Project, Home Broadband Adoption2007, June 2007. Available at [http://pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Broadband%202007.pdf].16 Fourth Report, p. 8.17 See Appendix C of the Fourth Report, “List of Broadband-Related Proceedings at theCommission,” pp. 54-56.
in 99% of the top one-tenth of zip codes, as compared to 92% of the bottom one-tenth of zip codes.14
2007 data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicate that whilebroadband adoption is growing in urban, suburban, and rural areas, broadband usersmake up larger percentages of urban and suburban users than rural users. Pew foundthat the percentage of all U.S. adults with broadband at home is 52% for urban areas,49% for suburban areas, and 31% for rural areas.15
Some policymakers assert that disparities in broadband access across Americansociety could have adverse consequences on those left behind. Many believe thatadvanced Internet applications — voice over the Internet protocol (VoIP) or highquality video, for example — and the resulting ability for businesses and consumersto engage in e-commerce, may increasingly depend on high speed broadbandconnections to the Internet. Thus, some say, communities and individuals withoutaccess to broadband could be at risk to the extent that e-commerce becomes a criticalfactor in determining future economic development and prosperity.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-104) addressed the issue ofwhether the federal government should intervene to prevent a “digital divide” inbroadband access. Section 706 requires the FCC to determine whether “advancedtelecommunications capability [i.e., broadband or high-speed access] is beingdeployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.” If this is not the case,the act directs the FCC to “take immediate action to accelerate deployment of suchcapability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promotingcompetition in the telecommunications market.”
On September 9, 2004, the FCC adopted and released its Fourth Reportpursuant to Section 706. Like the previous three reports, the FCC concluded that“the overall goal of section 706 is being met, and that advanced telecommunicationscapability is indeed being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis to allAmericans.”16 While the FCC is currently implementing or actively considering someregulatory activities related to broadband,17 no major regulatory intervention pursuantto Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has been deemed necessaryby the FCC at this time.
The FCC noted the future promise of emerging multiple advanced broadbandnetworks which can complement one another:
18 Ibid., p. 9.19 Ibid., p. 5, 7.20 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Broadband Deployment is Extensive throughoutthe United States, but It Is Difficult to Assess the Extent of Deployment Gaps in Rural Areas,GAO-06-426, May 2006, p. 3.21 Federal Communications Commission, Notice Proposed Rulemaking, “Development ofNationwide Broadband Data to Evaluate Reasonable and Timely Deployment of AdvancedServices to All Americans, Improvement of Wireless Broadband Subscribership Data, andDevelopment of Data on Interconnected Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)Subscribership,” WC Docket No. 07-38, FCC 07-17, released April 16, 2007, 56 p.
For example, in urban and suburban areas, wireless broadband services may “fillin the gaps” in wireline broadband coverage, while wireless and satellite servicesmay bring high-speed broadband to remote areas where wireline deployment maybe costly. Having multiple advanced networks will also promote competition inprice, features, and quality-of-service among broadband-access providers.18
Two FCC Commissioners (Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein) dissentedfrom the Fourth Report conclusion that broadband deployment is reasonable andtimely. They argued that the relatively poor world ranking of United Statesbroadband penetration indicates that deployment is insufficient, that the FCC’scontinuing definition of broadband as 200 kilobits per second is outdated and is notcomparable to the much higher speeds available to consumers in other countries, andthat the use of zip code data (measuring the presence of at least one broadbandsubscriber within a zip code area) does not sufficiently characterize the availabilityof broadband across geographic areas.19
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also cited concerns about theFCC’s zip code level data. Of particular concern is that the FCC will reportbroadband service in a zip code even if a company reports service to only onesubscriber, which in turn can lead to some observers overstating of broadbanddeployment. According to GAO, “the data may not provide a highly accuratedepiction of local deployment of broadband infrastructures for residential service,especially in rural areas.”20
On April 16, 2007, the FCC announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking whichseeks comment on a number of broadband data collection issues, including how todevelop a more accurate picture of broadband deployment; gathering information onprice, other factors determining consumer uptake of broadband, and internationalcomparisons; how to improve data on wireless broadband; how to collect informationon subscribership to voice over Internet Protocol service (VoIP); and whether tomodify collection of speed tier information.21
Also on April 16, 2007, the FCC announced a Notice of Inquiry beginning itsfifth inquiry under Section706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Under thisinquiry, the FCC collected information on various market, investment, andtechnological trends relevant to the question of whether advanced
22 Federal Communications Commission, Notice of Inquiry, “Concerning the Deploymentof Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and TimelyFashion, and possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of theTelecommunications Act of 1996,” GN Docket No. 07-45, FCC 07-21, released April 17,2007, 21 p.23 See speech by Nancy Victory, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information,before the National Summit on Broadband Deployment, October 25, 2001,[http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/speeches/2001/broadband_102501.htm].24 Address by Nancy Victory, NTIA Administrator, before the Alliance for PublicTechnology Broadband Symposium, February 8, 2002, [http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/speeches/2002/apt_020802.htm].25 Allen, Mike, “Bush Sets Internet Access Goal,” Washington Post, March 27, 2004.26 See White House, A New Generation of American Innovation, April 2004. Available at[http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/technology/economic_policy200404/innovation.pdf].27 Available at[http://www.ntia.doc.gov/reports/2008/NetworkedNationBroadbandinAmerica2007.pdf]
telecommunications services is being made available to all Americans.22 On March19, 2008, the FCC adopted the Fifth Report to Congress on broadband deploymentunder Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. As did previous reports,the Fifth Report found that broadband services are currently being deployed to allAmericans in a reasonable and timely fashion. Commissioners Copps and Adelsteinagain dissented, citing flawed data collection methodologies, lagging U.S. broadbandpenetration internationally, and the lack of a comprehensive U.S. broadband strategy.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) atthe Department of Commerce (DOC) has been tasked with developing the BushAdministration’s broadband policy.23 Statements from Administration officialsindicated that much of the policy would focus on removing regulatory roadblocks toinvestment in broadband deployment.24 On June 13, 2002, in a speech at the 21st
Century High Tech Forum, President Bush declared that the nation must beaggressive about the expansion of broadband, and cited ongoing activities at the FCCas important in eliminating hurdles and barriers to get broadband implemented.President Bush made similar remarks citing the economic importance of broadbanddeployment at the August 13, 2002 economic forum in Waco, Texas. Subsequently,a more formal Administration broadband policy was unveiled in March and April of2004. On March 26, 2004, President Bush endorsed the goal of universal broadbandaccess by 2007.25 Then on April 26, 2004, President Bush announced a broadbandinitiative which advocates permanently prohibiting all broadband taxes, makingspectrum available for wireless broadband, creating technical standards forbroadband over power lines, and simplifying rights-of-way processes on federal landsfor broadband providers.26
On January 31, 2008, NTIA released a report, entitled, Networked Nation:Broadband in America, 2007.27 According to NTIA, the report shows “that theAdministration’s technology, regulatory, and fiscal policies have stimulated
28 NTIA, Press Release, “Gutierrez Hails Dramatic U.S. Broadband Growth,” January 31,2008. Available at [http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/press/2008/NetworkedNation_013108.html].29 For more information on the RUS broadband programs, see CRS Report RL33816,Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, by LennardG. Kruger.
innovation and competition, and encouraged investment in the U.S. broadbandmarket contributing to significantly increased accessibility of broadband services.”28
Some policymakers in Congress have asserted that the federal governmentshould play a more active role to avoid a “digital divide” in broadband access, andthat legislation is necessary to ensure fair competition and timely broadbanddeployment. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 — signed intolaw on May 13, 2002 as P.L. 107-171 — contained a provision (Section 6103)authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to make loans and loan guarantees to eligibleentities for facilities and equipment providing broadband service in ruralcommunities. The 110th Congress has reauthorized and reformed the RUS broadbandloan program as part of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-234).29
Congress has also enacted legislation intended to make radiofrequency spectrumavailable for wireless broadband applications. For example, the 108th Congressenacted The Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act (Title II of P.L. 108-494),which seeks to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband and otherservices by facilitating the reallocation of spectrum from government to commercialusers. In the 109th Congress, the Title III of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L.109-171) set a hard deadline for the digital television transition, thereby reclaiminganalog television spectrum to be auctioned for commercial applications such aswireless broadband.
Regulation and Broadband: Convergence and the Changing Marketplace
Rapid technological advances and the resulting convergence oftelecommunications providers and markets has prompted the reexamination of theexisting telecommunications industry regulatory framework. The“Telecommunications Act of 1996,” (P.L.104-104) redefined and recast the 1934Communications Act to address the emergence of competition in what werepreviously considered to be monopolistic markets. Despite its relatively recentenactment, however, a consensus has been growing that the modifications broughtabout by the implementation of the 1996 Act are not sufficient to address theNation’s changing telecommunications environment. Technological changes such asthe advancement of Internet technology to supply data, voice, and video as well asthe growing convergence in the telecommunications sector, have, according to many
30 For further information see CRS Report RL32949, Communications Act Revisions:Selected Issues for Consideration, Angele A. Gilroy, coordinator.31 For further information on the net neutrality debate, see CRS Report RS22444, NetNeutrality: Background and Issues, by Angele A. Gilroy.32 For further information on the Universal Service Fund and related FCC and congressionalactivity see CRS Report RL33979, Universal Service Fund: Background and Options forReform, by Angele A. Gilroy.
policymakers, made it necessary to consider another “rewrite” or revision of the lawsgoverning these markets.
The regulatory debate focuses on a number of issues including the extent towhich existing regulations should be applied to traditional providers as they enternew markets where they do not hold market power, the extent to which existingregulations should be imposed on new entrants as they compete with traditionalproviders in the same markets, and the appropriate regulatory framework to beimposed on new and/or converging technologies that are not easily classified underthe present framework.30
The regulatory treatment of broadband technologies continues to hold a majorfocus in the policy debate. A major facet of the debate centers on whether presentlaws and regulations are needed to ensure the development of competition and itssubsequent consumer benefits, or, conversely, whether such laws and policies areoverly burdensome and discourage needed investment and deployment of suchservices. What if any role regulators should play to ensure the Internet remains opento all, often referred to as “open access” requirements or “net neutrality,” is also amajor and contentious part of the dialogue.31 In addition to the debate over economicregulation, concern over how and to what extent “social regulations” such asemergency 911 access, disability access, and law enforcement regulations, should beapplied to new and converging technologies continues to be debated. The continuedgrowth and expressed interest in municipal broadband networks has also focuseddebate on what the appropriate role of the government sector should be and whetherit should be competing with the private sector.
How traditional policy goals, such as the advancement of universal servicemandates, should be revised to accommodate the changing marketplace has alsocome under scrutiny. For example, issues such as who should receive and whoshould contribute to universal service funds and whether the definition of universalservice objectives should be expanded to include new technologies such asbroadband continue to be debated.32
Activities in the 109th Congress
In the 109th Congress, debate over broadband policy primarily centered on H.R.5252 — the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act(COPE) in the House, and the Advanced Telecommunications and OpportunityReform Act (ATOR) in the Senate. H.R. 5252 addressed a number of issues,
including the extent to which legacy regulations should be applied to traditionalproviders as they enter new markets, the extent to which legacy regulations shouldbe imposed on new entrants as they compete with traditional providers in theirmarkets, the treatment of new and converging technologies, and the emergence ofmunicipal broadband networks and Internet access. H.R. 5252, as amended, passed( 321-101) the House, was significantly amended and passed (15-7) by the SenateCommerce Committee, but did not reach the Senate floor for consideration.
H.R. 5252 (COPE). House Commerce Committee Chairman Barton, on March27, 2006, released a draft telecommunications reform proposal that was the subjectof a Committee hearing on March 30, 2006. The then unnumbered measure, passed(27-4) the subcommittee, with amendment, on April 5, 2006, and passed (42-12) thefull Committee with amendment, on April 26, 2006. The measure, titled “TheCommunications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006” (COPE),was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and formallyintroduced as H.R. 5252. A sequential referral request, by House Judiciary ChairmanSensenbrenner, which was subsequently denied, delayed floor consideration. TheHouse passed (321-101) an amended version of H.R. 5252 on June 8, 2006. Inaddition to a manager’s amendment clarifying franchising provisions, five additionalamendments were passed. The other amendments: established a complaint processto resolve fee disputes between a local franchise authority and a cable operator;increased the income discrimination penalty for a cable operator from $500,000 to$750,000; allowed a cable franchising authority to issue an order requiringcompliance with FCC revised consumer protection rules; preserved FCC authorityto require VOIP providers to contribute to the federal universal service fund, whenthey connect directly or indirectly to the public switched network and compensatenetwork owners for use of their network; and clarified that language in HR5252giving the FCC the exclusive authority to adjudicate network neutrality does notremove antitrust authority over net neutrality complaints. Two amendments did notpass. The first, an amendment, sponsored by Representative Markey, to strengthennet neutrality provisions failed by a vote of 152-269. The second, to reduce, from 1percent to 0.5 percent, the fee paid to local franchise authorities relating to PEG/iNetsupport by women-owned, small business and socially and economicallydisadvantaged firms was withdrawn.
H.R. 5252, as passed by the House, contained in its 6 titles, provisions thatwould establish a national cable franchising process; clarify the FCC’s authority toenforce its network neutrality principles; address VoIP 911 interconnection and E911requirements; and bar states from prohibiting municipalities from providing theirown broadband networks. More specifically, Title I establishes a national process,through the FCC, for new entrants to offer pay TV services and opens it up toincumbent cable providers, once they face local competition. An operator of anational franchise is prohibited from discriminating in the provision of service to anygroup of residential subscribers based on the income of that group. Nationalconsumer protection rules are established with a local authority/FCC complaintprocedure. Additional provisions in Title I preserve the local five percent franchisefee cap, preserve and support PEG channel and I-Nets or Institutional Networks ( aone percent gross revenue fee is established to ensure financial support), and preserverights-of-way requirements. The bill also contains provisions to assist small and rural
carriers in the provision of video service by allowing video operators to share aheadend transmission facility.
Title II clarifies the FCC’s authority to enforce its August 2005 networkneutrality principles in complaint proceedings, but prohibits the FCC from engagingin related-rulemaking. Fines up to $500,000 per violation are established and theFCC is required to resolve complaints within 90 days. The FCC is also directed toconduct and submit to the House Energy and Commerce and Senate CommerceCommittees, within 180 days of enactment, a study, to evaluate “.... whether theobjectives of the (FCC’s) broadband policy statement and the principles incorporatedtherein are being achieved.”
The remaining four titles dealt with a wide range of telecommunications issues.Title III of the bill contains provisions to establish 911 and E-911 requirements forVoIP services that connect to the public switched network and represent areplacement telephone service. Additional provisions provide access to the nation’s911 infrastructure and requires the FCC to appoint a 911 number administrator. TitleIV contains provisions that bar states from prohibiting municipalities from providingtheir own broadband networks (that is telecommunications, information, or cableservices), but also requires that they do not discriminate in favor of, or bestow anyadvantages to, such entities as compared with other providers of such services. TheFCC is tasked with submitting within one year of enactment, a report to Congress,on the status of the provision of such services by municipalities. Titles V and VIcontain provisions that ensue consumers can buy stand-alone broadband service; callfor an FCC study to examine the possible interference associated with thedeployment of broadband over power lines; and further the development of “seamlessmobility.”
S. 2686 (HR5252/ATOR). The Senate Commerce Committee held a series ofhearings on a wide range of telecommunications issues in preparation for developingcomprehensive telecommunications legislation. Senate Commerce CommitteeChairman Stevens introduced, on May 1, 2006, a comprehensive (135 page)telecommunications bill, S. 2686. The major provisions of that measure dealt witha wide range of topics, including universal service reform; streamlining of the videofranchising process; requiring the FCC to report annually to Congress on the netneutrality issue; interoperability of public safety communications systems;interconnection; and municipal broadband ownership. The bill also contains anumber of provisions relating to broadcast issues such as the digital televisiontransition, the reinstating of the FCC’s “broadcast flag” rules, access to sportsprogramming, and use of unlicensed “white space.” Additional provisions relatingto protecting children from child pornography and amending the FCC’s “sunshinerules” are also included.
Although Senator Inouye, the ranking minority member of the Committee,signed on as a bill co-sponsor, he stated that S. 2686 needed considerableamendment to gain his support. He circulated a draft proposal containing provisionsaddressing video franchising, Internet access, broadband deployment, and universalservice, for consideration that addressed his concerns. The lack of a strong netneutrality provision was one of the issues he specifically singled out for attention. S.2686 provisions relating to streamlining the video franchising process, universal
service fund reform, and net neutrality were the major focus of CommerceCommittee hearing held on May 18, and May 25,2006. The Commerce Committeeissued a revised draft of the bill which was the subject of a hearing held on June 13,2006.
After a lengthy and intense markup the Senate Commerce Committee approved(15-7) on June 28, 2006 the newly titled “Advanced Telecommunications andOpportunity Reform Act,” which technically is an amended version in the nature ofa substitute for H.R. 5252. In addition to a new bill name and number the three-daymarkup led to the approval of a significant manager’s amendment containing a newtitle and 70 amendments resulting in the passage of a 200-plus page omnibustelecommunications measure. S. 2686, which was referred to as “the SenateCommittee passed version of H.R. 5252,” contains 11 titles covering a wide rangeof telecommunications issues including video franchise reform, net neutrality,universal service reform, municipal broadband, broadcast flag, the digital televisiontransition, interoperability, the illegal transmission of child pornography, and FCCreform. The issue of net neutrality proved to be major point of contention during themarkup. Despite the addition of a new title (Title IX) establishing an “InternetConsumer Bill of Rights” net neutrality advocates continued to press for a netneutrality non-discrimination provision. A nondiscrimination amendment offeredduring markup was defeated by an 11-11 vote. The lack of a cable franchise build-outprovision, federal preemption of state authority over wireless services, as well asprovisions added during markup to exempt, for three years, wireless providersfrom”new and discriminatory” taxes and make permanent the Internet taxmoratorium also resulted in concern. While Senator Steven’s continued to expressconfidence that the Senate version of H.R. 5252 would come to the floor for a vote,the 109th Congress ended without full Senate consideration of the measure.
Both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees also examined issues relatedto telecommunications reform. The House Judiciary’s Telecommunications andAntitrust Task Force held a hearing on April 25, 2006, to examine competition issuesrelating to Internet access and “net neutrality.” House Judiciary CommitteeChairman Sensenbrenner and Representative Conyers, the ranking minority member,stated, in a letter sent to then House Speaker Hastert, that the Judiciary Committeehad oversight over market conditions, consolidations and antitrust protections in thetelecommunications sector, and asked for a sequential referral of H.R. 5252. Thatrequest was denied. However, Chairman Sensenbrenner, Representative Conyers andothers introduced a bipartisan bill (H.R. 5417) focusing on Internet access from anantitrust perspective, that passed (20-13) the Judiciary Committee, with amendment,on May 25, 2006. A request to the House Rules Committee to have the billconsidered as an amendment during House floor action on H.R. 5252 was denied.The Senate Judiciary Committee held a June 14, 2006 hearing to examinecommunications laws in the context of ensuring competition and innovation.
33 For further details, see CRS Report RL33816, Broadband Loan and Grant Programs inthe USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, by Lennard G. Kruger.
Activities in the 110th Congress
In the 110th Congress, legislation has been introduced that would providefinancial assistance for broadband deployment. Of particular note is thereauthorization and reform of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband loanprogram, which was enacted as part of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-234).33 P.L. 110-234 also contains provisions establishing a National Center for RuralTelecommunications Assessment and requiring the FCC and RUS to formulate acomprehensive rural broadband strategy.
Legislation to reform universal service (H.R. 2054, S. 101, S. 711) — whichcould have a significant impact on the amount of financial assistance available forbroadband deployment in rural and underserved areas — has also been introduced.Additionally, Congress is considering broadband data bills (S. 1492 as reported bythe Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and H.R. 3919 aspassed by the House), net neutrality bills (H.R. 5353, H.R. 5994, S. 215), andmunicipal broadband bills (H.R. 3281 and S. 1853). The following provides a listingof broadband-related legislation introduced into the 110th Congress.
P.L. 110-161 (H.R. 2764)Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008. For Rural Utilities Service, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, provides $6.45 million to support a loan level of $300million for the broadband loan program, and $13.5 million for broadband communityconnect grants. For the USF extends for one year (until December 31, 2008) the USFexemption for the Antideficiency Act (Title V, Sec. 510); prohibits the FCC fromusing its FY2008 funds to limit USF support to a primary, or single, line (Title V,Sec. 511); permits the transfer of up to $21,480,000 of FY2008 funds from the USFto monitor the Program to prevent and remedy fraud, waste, and abuse, and toconduct audits and investigations by the OIG (Title V, FCC Salaries and Expenses).Signed by President, December 26, 2007.
H.R. 42 (Velazquez)Serving Everyone with Reliable, Vital Internet, Communications and Education
Act of 2007. Directs the FCC to expand assistance provided by the LifelineAssistance Program and the Link Up Program to include broadband service.Introduced January 4, 2007; referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 278 (Cubin)Amends Section 254 of the Communications Act of 1934 to provide that funds
received as universal service contributions and the universal service supportprograms established pursuant to that section are not subject to certain provisions oftitle 31, United States Code, commonly known as the Antideficiency Act. IntroducedJanuary 5, 2007; referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 1818 (Matsui)Broadband Deployment Acceleration Act of 2007. Amends the Internal
Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the expensing of broadband Internet accessexpenditures. Introduced March 29, 2007; referred to Committee on Ways andMeans.
H.R. 2035 (Herseth Sandlin)Rural Broadband Improvement Act. Amends the Rural Electrification Act of
1936 to modify the broadband loan program at the Rural Utilities Service bynarrowing the definition of “eligible rural community” and by limiting loans awardedto applicants proposing to serve areas that already have a broadband provider.Introduced April 25, 2007; referred to Committee on Agriculture and to Committeeon Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 2054 (Boucher)Universal Reform Act of 2007. Targets universal service support specifically
to eligible telecommunications carriers in high-cost geographic areas to ensure thatcommunications services and high-speed broadband services are made availablethroughout all of the States of the United States in a fair and equitable manner.Introduced April 26, 2007; referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 2174 (Salazar)Rural Broadband Initiative Act of 2007. Establishes an Office of Rural
Broadband Initiatives within the Department of Agriculture which will administer allrural broadband grant and loan programs previously administered by the RuralUtilities Service. Also establishes a National Rural Broadband Innovation Fundwhich would fund experimental and pilot rural broadband projects and applications.Introduced May 3, 2007; referred to Committee on Agriculture and to Committee onEnergy and Commerce.
H.R. 2272 (Gordon)America COMPETES Act. Authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF)
to provide grants for basic research in advanced information and communicationstechnologies. Areas of research include affordable broadband access, includingwireless technologies. Also directs NSF to develop a plan that describes the currentstatus of broadband access for scientific research purposes. Introduced May 10,2007; referred to House Committee on Science and Technology. Passed House May21, 2007. Passed Senate July 19, 2007.
H.R. 2419 (Peterson) P.L. 110-234Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Reauthorizes broadband program
at the Rural Utilities Service through FY2012. Senate passed version contains“Connect the Nation Act,” which directs the Department of Commerce to awardgrants encouraging state initiatives to improve broadband service. Senate passedversion also would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for theexpensing of broadband Internet access expenditures, and would provide tax creditsto holders of Rural Renaissance Bonds financing qualified projects, includingprojects to expand broadband technology in rural areas. Introduced May 22, 2007;referred to Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to Committee on ForeignAffairs. Passed House July 27, 2007. Passed Senate with an amendment, December
14, 2007. Conference report (H.Rept. 110-627) approved by the House May 14,2008, and by the Senate May 15, 2008. Vetoed by the President, May 21, 2008.House and Senate overrode veto on May 21 and May 22, 2008. Became P.L. 110-234.
H.R. 2569 (Graves)Rural Broadband Deployment Act. Codifies certain changes proposed by
USDA to the rules governing eligibility for the rural broadband access program.Specifically, would relax market survey requirements and eliminate the credit supportrequirement, including the cash-on-hand requirement. Introduced June 5, 2007;referred to Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on Energyand Commerce.
H.R. 2829 (Serrano)Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2008. The
Senate Appropriations Committee-passed version of this 2008 appropriations billincludes language in Title V (sec. 501) to extend the FCC’s universal service fundexemption for the Anti-deficiency Act until December 31, 2008, and includeslanguage (sec. 502) to prohibit the FCC from implementing a single line restrictionfor universal service support. Passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee July12, 2007, and reported out of Committee (S.Rept. 110-129) on July 13, 2007.
H.R. 2953 (Space)Rural Broadband Access Enhancement Act. Seeks to redefine “eligible rural
community,” streamline application process and lower equity requirements, restrictloans to communities with existing broadband providers, eliminate limitation oneligibility based on number of subscriber lines, set 35-year maximum on term of loanrepayment, and direct USDA/RUS to meet specific reporting requirements.Introduced July 10, 2007; referred to Committee on Agriculture and Committee onEnergy and Commerce.
H.R. 3281 (Boucher)Community Broadband Act of 2007. Sets forth that no state regulation or
requirement shall prevent a public provider from offering broadband services, andprohibits a municipality from discriminating against competing private providers.Introduced August 1, 2007; referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 3246 (Oberstar)Regional Economic and Infrastructure Development Act of 2007. Designates
five regional commissions throughout the U.S. which would provide economic andinfrastructure development grants, including grants to develop thetelecommunications infrastructure of the region. Introduced July 31, 2007; referredto Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and to Committee on FinancialServices. Reported by Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, September7, 2007 (H.Rept. 110-321, Part I). Passed by House, October 4, 2007.
H.R. 3428 (McHugh)Rural America Digital Accessibility Act. Provides for grants, loan guarantees,
research, and tax credits to promote broadband deployment in underserved ruralareas. Introduced August 3, 2007; referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce
and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Scienceand Technology.
H.R. 3627 (Space)Connect the Nation Act. Establishes a State Broadband Data and Development
Grant Program within the Department of Commerce to help states develop andimplement statewide initiatives to identify and track the availability and adoption ofbroadband services within each state. Authorizes $40 million for each of fiscal years2008 through 2012. Introduced September 20, 2007; referred to Committee onEnergy and Commerce.
H.R. 3893 (Allen)Connect America Now Act. Establishes a State Broadband Data and
Development Grant Program within the Department of Commerce to help statesdevelop and implement statewide initiatives to identify and track the availability andadoption of broadband services within each state. Authorizes $40 million for eachof fiscal years 2008 through 2012. Introduced October 18, 2007; referred toCommittee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 3919 (Markey)Broadband Census of America Act of 2007. Provides for a comprehensive
inventory of existing broadband service. Directs the FCC to conduct an annualassessment of broadband deployment, including information on bandwidth servicetiers, types of technology, and international comparisons. Directs NTIA to developand maintain a broadband inventory map of the United States that depicts broadbanddeployment at a nine digit zip code area level, census tract level, or functionalequivalent. Directs NTIA to award grants to states for broadband map developmentand grants for demand-side broadband service identification and assessments.Directs the FCC to conduct periodic consumer surveys of broadband servicecapability. Authorizes $20 million for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2010, ofwhich not less than $15 million would be available for the state broadband mapgrants. Authorizes $50 million in FY2008, $100 million in FY2009, and $125million in FY2010 for the demand-side broadband service identification andassessment (local technology planning) grants. Introduced October 22, 2007;referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce. Reported by Committee on Energyand Commerce (H.Rept. 110-443), November 13, 2007. Passed House by voice vote,November 13, 2007.
H.R. 5353 (Markey)Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008. To establish broadband policy and
direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a proceeding and publicbroadband summits to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choiceissues relating to broadband Internet access, and for other purposes. IntroducedFebruary 12, 2008; referred to Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 5682 (Allen)Rural America Communication Expansion for the Future Act of 2008. Reforms
and reauthorizes through FY2013 the Rural Broadband Access Loan and LoanGuarantee Program and the Community Connect Grant Program. Provides for taxincentives and NTIA grant program for broadband services in rural and underserved
areas. Introduced April 2, 2008; referred to Committee on Energy and Commerceand in addition to the Committees on Ways and Means and Agriculture.
H.R. 5994 (Conyers)Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. To amend the Clayton
Act with respect to competitive and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet.Introduced May 8, 2008; referred to Committee on the Judiciary.
S. 101 (Stevens)Universal Service for Americans Act (“USA Act”). Directs the FCC to
establish Broadband for Unserved Area Areas Program to be funded by the UniversalService Fund. Requires communications carriers to submit detailed broadbanddeployment data to the FCC. Introduced January 4, 2007; referred to Committee onCommerce, Science, and Transportation.
S. 215 (Dorgan)Amend the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure net neutrality. Introduced
January 9, 2007; referred to Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
S. 541 (Feingold)Rural Opportunities Act of 2007. Directs the FCC to collect more detailed
broadband deployment data and to periodically revise its definition of broadbandabove 200 kbps. Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to report on the adoption orplanned adoption of the recommendations contained in the September 2005 auditreport by the Inspector General of the United States Department of Agriculture.Introduced February 8, 2007; referred to Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition andForestry.
S. 609 (Rockefeller)A bill to amend Section 254 of the Communications Act of 1934 to provide that
funds received as universal service contributions and the universal service supportprograms established pursuant to that section are not subject to certain provisions ofTitle 31, United States Code, commonly known as the Antideficiency Act. IntroducedFebruary 15, 2007; referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, andTransportation.
S. 711 (Smith)Universal Service for the 21st Century Act. Expands the contribution base for
universal service and establishes a separate account within the universal service fundto support the deployment of broadband service in unserved areas. IntroducedFebruary 28, 2007; referred to Committee on Commerce, Science, andTransportation.
S. 761 (Reid)America COMPETES Act. Authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF)
to provide grants for basic research in advanced information and communicationstechnologies. Areas of research include affordable broadband access, includingwireless technologies. Also directs NSF to develop a plan that describes the currentstatus of broadband access for scientific research purposes. Introduced March 5,
2007; placed on Senate Legislative Calendar. Passed Senate April 25, 2007. Senateincorporated this measure in H.R. 2272 as an amendment July 19, 2007.
S. 1032 (Clinton)Rural Broadband Initiative Act of 2007. Establishes an Office of Rural
Broadband Initiatives within the Department of Agriculture which will administer allrural broadband grant and loan programs previously administered by the RuralUtilities Service. Also establishes a National Rural Broadband Innovation Fundwhich would fund experimental and pilot rural broadband projects and applications.Introduced March 29, 2007; referred to Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, andForestry.
S. 1190 (Durbin)Connect the Nation Act. Establishes a State Broadband Data and Development
Grant Program within the Department of Commerce to help states develop andimplement statewide initiatives to identify and track the availability and adoption ofbroadband services within each state. Authorizes $40 million for each of fiscal years2008 through 2012. Introduced April 24, 2007; referred to Committee onCommerce, Science, and Transportation.
S.Res. 191 (Rockefeller)Establishing a national goal for the universal deployment of next-generation
broadband networks by 2015, and calling upon Congress and the President to developa strategy, enact legislation, and adopt policies to accomplish this objective.Introduced May 8, 2007; referred to Committee on Commerce, Science, andTransportation.
S. 1264 (Coleman) Rural Renaissance Act. Creates a Rural Renaissance Corporation which would
fund qualified projects including projects to expand broadband technology in ruralareas. Introduced May 2, 2007; referred to Committee on Finance.
S. 1439 (Roberts)Rural Broadband Improvement Act of 2007. Reauthorizes the broadband and
broadband loan guarantee program under Title VI of the Rural Electrification Acctof 1936. Introduced May 21, 2007; referred to Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition,and Forestry.
S. 1492 (Inouye)Broadband Data Improvement Act. Seeks to improve the quality of federal
broadband data collection and encourage state initiatives that promote broadbanddeployment. Directs the FCC to reevaluate its current 200 kbps broadband standardand to develop a new metric for “second generation broadband” capable oftransmitting high definition video content. Directs broadband providers to report tothe FCC connections within nine digit (zip+4) zip code areas. Directs the FCC toconduct its Section 706 inquiry into the status of broadband deployment on an annualbasis. Directs the Census Bureau to collect residential broadband data. Directs GAOto develop broadband metrics involving connection cost and capability informationthat could be used to improve the process of comparing U.S. broadband deploymentwith other countries. Directs the Small Business Administration to conduct a study
evaluating the impact of broadband speed and cost on small businesses. Authorizes$40 million for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to establish a State BroadbandData and Development Grant Program within the Department of Commerce to helpstates develop and implement statewide initiatives to identify and track theavailability and adoption of broadband services within each state. Introduced May24, 2007; referred to Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.Ordered to be reported July 19, 2007. Ordered to be reported July 19, 2007; reportedby Committee (S.Rept. 110-204) and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar, October24, 2007.
S. 1853 (Lautenberg)Community Broadband Act of 2007. Sets forth that no state regulation or
requirement shall prevent a public provider from offering broadband services, andprohibits a municipality from discriminating against competing private providers.Introduced July 23, 2007; referred to Committee on Commerce, Science, andTransportation. Ordered to be reported favorably with amendments by theCommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, October 30, 2007.
S. 2242 (Baucus)Heartland, Habitat, Harvest, and Horticulture Act of 2007. Introduced October
25, 2007; referred to Committee on Finance. Amends the Internal Revenue Code of1986 to provide for the expensing of broadband Internet access expenditures. Createsa Rural Renaissance Corporation which would fund qualified projects includingprojects to expand broadband technology in rural areas. Reported to Senate (S.Rept.110-206) and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar, October 25, 2007.
S. 2302 (Harkin)Food and Energy Security Act of 2007. Reauthorizes broadband program at the
Rural Utilities Service through FY2012. Introduced November 2, 2007. SenateCommittee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry reported measure to Senate(S.Rept. 110-220) November 2, 2007; placed on Senate Legislative Calendar.